What’s the Point of Newsstand Automatic Background Downloads?

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So far Newsstand’s touted ability to automatically download updates is not living up to its billing for me. In fact, so far I don’t see what advantage there is in its background downloads – as it does not seem to have improved the initial load time for the titles that are using it.

Admittedly I’ve only got seven apps at the moment which have been updated for Newsstand, and several of them are monthly titles which have not had a content refresh since being added to Newsstand. But I do have two titles that are updated 6 and 7 days a week – The Guardian iPad Edition and The Daily.

Both are set to automatically download new content in Settings > Store, yet so far just about every time I open either one of them – even when they have the blue ‘New’ banner on them in Newsstand – they seem to require a fair while to locate a new issue and load up the front page.

Here’s how the Apple iOS 5 features page describes Newsstand’s background updating ability:

New purchases go directly to your Newsstand folder. Then, as new issues become available, Newsstand automatically updates them in the background — complete with the latest covers. It’s kind of like having the paper delivered to your front door. Only better.

The thing is, when a newspaper gets delivered to my door it doesn’t generally have a headline that says ‘I’m trying to get delivered’, like this one:


But that’s what I have to stare at when I fire up The Daily – even with Newsstand supposedly doing all its updating in the background.

Maybe it’s just these two titles, but I’m guessing probably not.

For those of you who have some titles in Newsstand, how are they doing on background updates and quick loading for you?

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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21 thoughts on “What’s the Point of Newsstand Automatic Background Downloads?”

  1. My subscriptions are not loading in the background either. The New Yorker takes forever and does not continue downloading if you leave the app and try to do something else. The worst part is that when you go back it does not resume where it left off, but starts the download from the beginning.

  2. Not one of my subscriptions in Newsstand downloads in the background.

    Plus, as Leslie noted, The New Yorker (and all the other Conde Nast titles) take forever to download and stop if you try to use another app.

  3. Man I was reading with all my hope that there is a solution at the end line and I will discover how stupid I was for not doing this or this in the setting and I will finally get my news stand background updates run . : )

    Same issue here

  4. The New Yorker is still terrible. Was before, still is. There is now a way to resume a paused download but it’s not obvious and it only works about 25% of the time.

    The New York Times is GREAT but it now works exactly like it used to. Except that I’ve now got to do two taps to open it instead of one.

    Newstand may be nice if you have a lot of subscriptions but otherwise it is just inconvenient.

  5. So far it’s working great for me. I have The Guardian app which downloads the new issue whilst I’m asleep, allowing me to grab my wifi-only iPad on the way out of the door, ready to read at the office or on the train. I must admit, it didn’t download an update yesterday afternoon without telling me first, but it’s all there waiting for me in the morning.

  6. I agree that it’s not really an improvement if you have to do two taps where one used to suffice. Also, I have the Sports Illustrated app and it refuses to hop on the wooden bookshelf with the other periodicals. Anybody know why?

  7. It’s up to the individual publishers/app developers to make sure they’re properly taking advantage of Newsstand’s features – and so far, most are not. (This explains why your SI app isn’t yet showing up in Newsstand, or why the Condé Nast applications aren’t doing automatic downloads.) The only app that so far is working properly for me is The Guardian; the worst are all of the Condé Nast apps (New Yorker, Wired) who don’t even support background downloads yet – let alone, automatic/overnight downloads.

    Put pressure on the individual publishers by giving the current version of the app a low rating (and then setting it back again once they address the problem!).

  8. I found this site because I searched for information about the problem’s I’ve had with the New Yorker’s app. I guess I’m relieved that it’s not just me and the problem is general, but I’m also disappointed that there’s no solution.

    After I heard we’d be getting background downloading I was really looking forward to finding complete new issues waiting for me automatically. But I could live without that if I could at least download them myself without having to watch the process in progress. It’s just crazy that partial downloads are lost rather than resumed, especially since that can happen when the iPad’s power saver causes it to switch off in mid-download.

    This needs to be fixed ASAP.

  9. I went round and round with The Dailys tech team and ended up canceling my subscription because it wasn’t updating in the background. Sucks cause I liked the app but hated the full download every time I opened the app.

    Were you able to resolve your issue with The Daily?

    1. Nope, sadly not. Every day that I launch it I still see ‘Looking for the latest issue’ for a while, then a message saying the issue is being delivered. And then when it finally opens, the little pie chart status shows it less than 20% downloaded. Ridiculous.

  10. What makes this even worse is that many of the publications mentioned above tell you that they support automatic downloading in their new ios5 descriptions on the Apple App store page. No wonder everyone is confused and frustrated. Where is Apples QC on what is posted? Very disappointing.

  11. Found this article searching for information. I wanted to report back that while I’m still having issues there is a setting in the setting >> store panel to turn on (or off) automatic downloads for specific newsstand apps. Wired and business week both show in here and I have them turned on but I still can’t get it to work.

  12. I have to say that my sole Newsstand subscription, The Daily, was downloading overnight without fail until this past Sunday. I checked the settings, looked for any updates in the App Store, and found nothing to update and nothing wrong with the settings. I am now experiencing the same problems that others have reported here, including the uber-irritating partial download that has to be restarted from scratch if I use another app, the iPad goes to sleep or Newsstand crashes. I have brilliantly fast wifi, but it still takes close to an hour for The Daily to load, if it loads at all. I have to sit by the iPad and nursemaid it along, keeping it from going to into standby/sleep mode, lest Newsstand crash or close and require that I start the entire process over again. I always did the Sudoku and crossword in the morning with my coffee. Now I’m lucky if it’s loaded before noon, if not later.

    Also, it’s probably fair to mention that I have a 1st gen iPad. I was wondering if the people reporting issues like these also have older iPads, or if it’s a problem for the new models, too.

    1. Mine is an iPad 2. I don’t think this is an issue for older iPads vs. newer – feels far more like just an issue with some of these apps or with the way Newsstand itself handles background downloads.

  13. Im wondering if this is due to developers not yet updating their apps or not being able to take advantage of it due to the way their code is written, versus it being a newstand problem. Especially since it seems to work on some and not on others. Either way, very disappointed here with the Daily and my other subscriptions.

  14. I agree, seems Condé Nast are messing up on their New Yorker app for Newsstand. Guardian and NYT are downloading v smoothly, NewYorker takes ages, Wired isn’t flowing either. What’s the point of subscribing, CondéNast?

  15. I tried the Readers Digest app and would not consider subscribing with these results. It’s surprising there isn’t more feedback available online about this issue. The promise of the app is a far cry from the delivery. Shame, really.

  16. Just did a google for “How do I get newstand to automatically download on my iPad” and came here. The one that I would _love_ to have download, the New York Times – when I’m at home, on WiFi, with lots of power – still does not upload automatically. I have to remember to open each of the Newstand Items, one at a time, and download the content – doesn’t this totally defeat the purpose of having a newstand in the first place? Why not just put all your Content Apps in a folder?

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